Transition away from harvesting is key to sustainability

26 September 2016

A transition from opportunistic harvesting to semi-managed or fully managed goat systems is key to improved sustainability, according to the preliminary findings of a PhD project sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

Marwan El Hassan is a PhD researcher with The Australian National University, investigating methods of sustainably managing the Australian rangeland goat. Through the project Marwan has conducted interviews with goat producers and processors to identify challenges and impediments to the industry’s sustainability.

Marwan’s preliminary findings suggest that environmental and economic sustainability can best be achieved through moving from opportunistic harvesting to semi-managed or fully managed goat farming.

Although the research project looks at existing farmland (domesticated) production systems, which depend mainly on Boer or Boer-cross goats, and which are likely to target niche markets, the rangelands remain the main focus, given that 95 per cent of the supply is from rangeland goats.

Marwan’s interviews confirm that harvesting wild animals is still the dominant practice, however people are starting to ‘hold’ rangeland goats on their properties, sending suitable animals straight into the supply chain, while keeping younger animals for breeding. This semi-managed system contributes to lower pressure on natural resources and improved control over the consistency of supply.

However, Marwan’s research has found the industry faces many challenges.

“There are several tensions and interdependencies between the different components of the system. Due to high prices, export processors demand more animals, producers harvest more of them, and as a consequence smaller and younger animals are being sent to slaughter,” Marwan said.

“This puts the supply of the wild stock under a significant stress. The question is how to use harvesting and farming as complementary management strategies for the sustainability of both the environment and the wild goat population.

“A significant impediment is the stigma that surrounds goats: some parts of society still label them as feral pests, or at best poor cousins of sheep.

“Most participants interviewed to date have flagged that this negative attitude needs to change if the industry is to grow and persist sustainably.”

The project is due to conclude in late 2017 and will identify further research and development needs.  

For more information on the project, contact Marwan El Hassan on marwan.elhassan@anu.edu.au  or 02 6125 6326.

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